There were several notable absentees as Israel began its preparations for its
2014 World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg on Monday, but there was one who
stood out above all others.
Almost 14 years after making his debut for
the national team, Yossi Benayoun was dropped from the squad for the two
upcoming qualifiers against Luxembourg, on the road on Friday and at home next
Following the 1-1 draw at Azerbaijan and the humbling 4-0 home
defeat to Russia last month that all but ended Israel’s hopes of reaching the
World Cup after just two qualifiers, coach Eli Gutman decided to only call up
players who play regularly for their club sides.
The biggest casualty of
the new policy was the 32-year-old Benayoun, who is only four appearances away
from equaling Arik Benado’s record of 94 and is also ranked second all-time with
his 24 goals for the blue-and-white.
Gutman spoke to Benayoun over the
phone to personally let him know of his decision and told him that he will be
recalled when he plays more for his new club West Ham United.
has so far made just two substitute appearances for West Ham and was an unused
substitute in the team’s past two Premier League matches.
dropped defender Tal Ben-Haim, who is still without a team and was left out of
the squad for professional reasons for the first time since making his debut in
Ben-Haim also received a call from Gutman to explain the
Itay Shechter (Swansea City) and Ben Sahar (Hertha Berlin) were
also not called up by their former coach at Hapoel Tel Aviv due to their lack of
playing time at their respected clubs.
While Benayoun and Ben-Haim
refused to comment on being dropped, Nuremberg midfielder Almog Cohen was
furious and took to Twitter to let Gutman know what he thought of his
“I’m stunned that I wasn’t called up,” said Cohen, who played
90 minutes in each of Nuremberg’s past two Bundesliga matches.
that legionnaires who play will be called up. I was never given a real chance in
this campaign. I was injured for the friendlies against Germany and the Czech
Republic and wasn’t called up for the match against Hungary.
start against Azerbaijan and I only played one half against Russia after which
Gutman told me that I played well but was being substituted because he wanted to
play with two strikers.”
Cohen noted that he respects Gutman’s decision
and that he wishes the team luck against Luxembourg.
“I’ll continue to
work hard,” he added. “This is all God’s will and obviously I don’t deserve to
be in the squad at the moment.”